Not yet a dull moment. Yesterday’s goal was to drive 20 minutes to the neighboring big city, Nancy, where Harvey had a pre-arranged appointment with a cardiologist to get French prescriptions. The directions were entered into the iPad’s French GPS system and off we went, only to have our rental car stutter, mutter, complain and just say no minutes after we got onto the highway. It turned out that when we’d requested a diesel car (it was an Audi A1, the smaller sister of what we know as an A4) and when we’d confirmed that the car took gazole (French for diesel), well, the woman at Europecar at Charles de Gaulle Airport was just being polite when she’d said that of course that was so. The car was not a diesel at all and it certainly didn’t enjoy being fed diesel. The car died on a highway bridge just outside Toul. Fortunately, just a short walk away was a Gendarmerie, a station of the national police force. We walked there and told our story. Even though it was that most sacred of French times – lunch – three officers helped and suffered through long phone calls with Europecar, laughing about the on-hold music. Eventually, an arrangement was negotiated in which a taxi came to take Harvey to his doctor’s appointment and to drop Sandra off on the highway at the car to wait for a tow truck.
That led to separate adventures. Sandra rode with the tow truck driver – whose only English words were “New York” – to his garage where he pumped out the diesel and got the engine started, a process that took a few hours because he had to tell about his wife, his children, the state of French politics and then spend a half hour or so figuring out what to charge. Mostly, he wanted to know about New York, where Sandra lived in younger and wilder days. Eventually, the car started, now with gasoline, Sandra drove to a gas station and filled up, then drove to Nancy to rendezvous with Harvey in Nancy.
Harvey, meanwhile, was in a taxi with a woman driver who the less he understood the faster she spoke, which simply meant he failed to understand more words. Their miscommunication included such basic items as which city his doctor was in. Eventually they arrived at the medical center for the cardiology appointment, Harvey’s first encounter with French medicine. Having in mind that Harvey’s last medical encounter was at Brigham & Womens Hospital in Boston, which is about as fine as medicine gets, L’Institut Lorrain du Cœur et des Vaisseaux was on the same scale. And Harvey’s doctor, referred by the doctor at the Brigham, turned out to be not only the director of the entire Institute, but one of Europe’s leading cardiologists. Overkill just for getting new prescriptions but a truly nice person. He spoke English but it did not seem any of the staff did. With Sandra – Harvey’s constant translator – last seen lonely and forlorn through the rear window of the taxi abandoned on a highway bridge waiting for the tow truck, Harvey was left to communicate with his Marcel Marceau version of French. First came the visit to the intake office, where the three women made it clear that payment would be required for a person not covered by the French medical system, then they wanted to know all about his boat – which uncomfortably was pronounced as “your bitch” – and they made it clear they were excited about having an American patient, even though the computer system would not accept a patient’s address outside France.
After seeing the doctor, next came the matter of payment. Forms were filled out, consultations were performed, and, at last, five people from various offices and departments gathered to confer, all while Harvey stood, credit card in hand. Forty minutes later a decision was announced: it will all – EKG, physical examination, consultation, prescriptions – be a “cadeaux de France.” “Cadeaux, I don’t know that word,” Harvey replied in pidgin-French. The response, “Eet iz like ze Statute of Liberty, a present from France,” he was told, “It is grauit.” No charge. A quick “vive la France” and off to Nancy to meet Sandra and the now-gasoline-powered Audi.
Dinner that night was with Kevin Hartwell and his girlfriend/crew Isabelle from his beautiful barge Nilyaya as a thank-you for Kevin’s finding Hoop Doet Levin and recommending it. Kevin takes guests on Nilaya and for anybody interested in an authentic barge cruise, as opposed to a stuffy high end hotel barge trip, Nilaya is the best way to go. Check out Kevin’s web site at http://www.bargeNilaya.com and all over YouTube. He is responsible for addicting us to barging and, as with any proper drug dealer, he enjoys luring new people into the habit.
Today’s adventure was five hours at a French IKEA in nearby Metz.